Dispatches From Quarry Farm: Autumn Arrives

Caretaker Steve Webb and his son are the only year-round residents of Quarry Farm. Steve provides us with occasional, not always altogether reliable, updates from the premises.

The turning of the seasons, the first little taste of Fall, begins at night. Suddenly you can sleep. The humidity, those dog days—and nights—make for a wide open, coverless, sleepless state from July to September.  Then suddenly your slumber is deep and dreaming. The perfect nighttime temperature—somewhere in the upper fifties—takes you flying over blue-green cities or eating a Beignet with a wildflower beauty in New Orleans (she’s laughing at you; there’s powdered sugar in your ear.)The dreams are a line of soft satisfaction that float your eyelids up to start the day and gently dissipate when you’re ready to stand on your own.

The early morning crickets on Quarry Farm drone on as one organism—like those fading dreams. There are little birds in the bushes near my window chirping away: Buntings, Chickadees, and the Tufted Titmouse. I have no idea what bird makes which noise but I’m glad they’re all there.

On some lucky mornings I can hear my favorite call, the Pileated Woodpecker, which to me sounds like some animal I’ve never seen in a rainforest somewhere I’ve never been. And on everylucky summer morning I can hear the sound of a ten-year-old boy downstairs screaming at his online friends while playing video games. Dissonance is important.

This has been the wettest summer in Quarry Farm history. At this rate we will be waterfront property by October. In anticipation for this I’ve purchased two Kayaks. My son and I will mourn the loss of Elmira with some recreational paddling in the new Lake Chemung.

I’ve also contacted the Mark Twain Foundation about funding for an official Mississippi riverboat replica, just like the one Twain would’ve piloted during his years on the river. We’d dock it at the front porch and charge admission for evening cruises. Hosted and Piloted by yours truly, of course. I’ve read Life on the Mississippi, how hard could it be, really? The foundation has yet to return my emails, but I’m optimistic.

I’m also considering a rope swing off of one of the big Maple Trees out front. Nothing exemplifies Tom Sawyer-esque American childhooed like swinging from a tree into a flooded river valley due to the catastrophic effects of mankind upon the Earth’s climate. Sometimes serious problems have simple answers: more rope swings.

Other than a better nights sleep I don’t care for Fall all that much. I’m optimistic that since it was Spring all Summer it will be Summer all Fall and maybe we can just skip Winter all together. The colors that the Autumn leaf-peepers get emotional about just signify impending death to me.

The ceiling at Quarry Farm has not collapsed despite the record rainfall. Yes, we’ve lost some plaster over the back stairs, we’ve used some pots and pans for things other than cooking, and some otherwise perfectly good bath towels have been retired. Thankfully, the repairs are scheduled. The contractors have a full calendar so we don’t know the exact date the repairs will take place but I’m excited to see the synergy of hardworking people coming together to get things done. Imagine the inspiration: you’re a scholar in residence reading, researching and focusing on a big project and you get to look up from your solitary studying to see a section of roof being torn off and replaced. I can’t imagine anything more inspiring than the synchronicity of hammers pounding overhead to the methodical typing of your perfect sentences. I’m excited to see which already scheduled Quarry Farm Fellow will win this lucky lottery.

On a sadder note, we’ve lost a great member of the Quarry Farm family. Bosco Trotsky Webb passed away in early May. He was a good man, for a dog, that lived a long blessed life well into his thirteenth year.

Born in the Redwood forests of Northern California he spent his first few years running wild amongst the giant trees and rugged coastline, swimming in the Pacific and avoiding garden hoses and vacuum cleaners. When he was three he moved to Southern California to try out the Hollywood life. He took to it immediately. Sprinting along the shoreline after distant ocean birds, plunging through the whitewater out past the break and gracefully riding the waves back into all the beaches from Malibu to Santa Barbra. It seemed possible that he’d never leave but the traffic and crowds and materialistic Hollywood culture—the pressure to bathe more often—wore him down. Rural life was calling.

After four years in Southern California he took a job as the assistant to the Caretaker here at Quarry Farm in Upstate New York. His skill at chasing deer away from the flowerbeds was sublime and the gardens flourished under his supervision, although the caretaker took most of the credit. With his guarding skills solely focused on deer, he welcomed all others to the farm and was loved and admired by scholars, students and even trespassers that I wished he chased off. There was more than one occasion where I had to suspiciously eye a departing scholar for fear that he or she was going to kidnap him. I could hardly blame them.

Bosco, my friend, we covered a lot of ground together. You will be deeply missed. Why do parrots live like seventy-five years while dogs, who are way cooler, only live thirteen if you’re lucky? What’re all the genetic engineers doing!?!

Anyway, I’ve spent way to long writing this and have missed my window of opportunity to mow the lawn. It’s storming: which reminds me of that quote from the boss-man himself, looking out over Elmira and the Chemung River from his octagonal study: “…and when the storms sweep down the remote valley and the lightning flashes above the hills beyond, and the rain beats on the roof over my head, imagine the luxury of it!”